By Dr Angela Goyal
GP with Extended Role in Dermatology
Clinical Lead for Dermatology and AQP Services
In the past month, I have been advising patients about the best type of sunscreen depending on their underlying skin condition. Sunscreen is vital and some people are put off using it due to fears of irritating their skin. I thought I would share a few tips here and bust some myths. I use these tips to help advise patients, but they are also useful for ourselves and our family members, who wish to use sunscreen without provoking an underlying skin condition.
**Disclaimer – there are no commissions or incentives for mentioning any brands. The only reason for mentioning them is because people are very confused by the multitude of sunscreens out there.
Is sunscreen contained in cosmetics enough?
Many people use a moisturizer or foundation labelled SPF. However, to achieve this SPF it would be unusual for anyone to actually apply the moisturizer or foundation thickly enough. You would need about 7 times as much foundation as you normally apply. Also, SPF protects against UVB but UVA protection is also required. UVA can penetrate through glass and is present at constant levels all year round. As well as a cause of skin cancer, it penetrates more deeply into the skin and is responsible for premature aging, including wrinkles.
Acne prone and oily skin types
Choose a sunscreen with a matt or light gel texture. Oil free and non-comedogenic labels are also worth looking out for. Examples of products for oily skin types are; Heliocare sunscreen 360 gel oil free, La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 or Aveeno Protect Hydrate Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50
Eczema prone skin
A richer cream can be used. Preservatives and chemicals in the sunscreen can aggravate eczema so it is important to find one with less of these ingredients.
The national eczema society has produced this guide for eczema prone skin with approved brands who meet the criteria for mineral formulations, alcohol free, SPF 30 or above and broad spectrum.
People with sensitive skin find the sun irritates their skin, but so can sunscreen. A mineral sunscreen, also known as physical sunscreen, rather than chemical sunscreen can help. These contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide rather than chemical filters. For example, Neutrogena’s SheerZinc Dry-Touch in SPF 30 or 50.
Are expensive sunscreens better?
Not really no – the price of skin care products often reflects branding and marketing. Look instead for level of SPF, broad spectrum i.e. UVA and UVB cover, mineral or chemical and a greasier or lighter product depending on your skin type.
This article focusses on sunscreen, however I must stress that to prevent burning, keeping out of the sun, shade, sunglasses and clothing are just as important. Knowing your skin type is too, so that you can enjoy the sun and absorb vitamin D but avoid burning and over doing it!